Monday, October 17, 2011
Weekend rewind: SEC
By Chris Low
The college football season is heating up with the release of the first BCS standings this week.
Anybody else feeling a bit hot … or not?
Trent Richardson is making a strong case for the Heisman.
Trent Richardson’s Heisman chances: A big part of winning the Heisman Trophy is all about timing. Mark Ingram made his move at exactly the right time two years ago, and now Richardson is doing the same. He’s already closing in on 1,000 yards rushing and is fourth nationally at 130.3 yards per game. He’s third nationally with 16 touchdowns and has rushed for 100 or more yards now in six straight games. What separates Richardson is his ability to wear on defenders, grind out the tough yards and break tackles that would take down most backs. Obviously, the 224-pound Richardson isn’t most backs, which is further evidenced by how electrifying he is when he gets into the open field. Good luck catching him and good luck getting him on the ground. We’ve all heard of Heisman poses. What about his Heisman shake last week to finish off his 76-yard touchdown run against Ole Miss? Something says we’ll see that run replayed a few more times this season, maybe even at the Best Buy Theatre in New York City the second weekend of December.
SEC centers: The SEC should have its own Rimington Trophy this season. The lineup of centers in this league is excellent. Alabama’s William Vlachos, LSU’s P.J. Lonergan and Georgia’s Ben Jones are all playing like All-Americans, even though Lonergan was banged up and didn’t play last week.
LSU quarterback controversy: It seems odd that LSU coach Les Miles would be so determined to get Jordan Jefferson into the game with the way Jarrett Lee and the Tigers are playing right now. Jefferson started the second half against Tennessee and played most of the way. But it’s really not an issue with the players, and that includes Lee. So call it a quarterback rotation and not a quarterback controversy.
South Carolina’s defense: The Gamecocks can thank Ellis Johnson and that defense for holding their ground these last four weeks. They haven’t given up more than 16 points in their last four games and are really getting after teams right now. South Carolina is second in the SEC with 14 sacks and tied for the lead nationally with 24 forced turnovers.
Florida’s running game: The Gators have now gone three straight games without rushing for 100 yards. Jeff Demps has been hurt – again. And Chris Rainey also hasn’t been able to get untracked after starting the season on fire. He was held to 33 yards on 16 carries in the 17-6 loss to Auburn, and no Florida running back had a rush that was longer than 9 yards.
Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw: One of those guys no quarterback likes to see lined up on the edge and ready to take off, Upshaw is making his case as the SEC’s pre-eminent big-play defender. He now leads the league with 10.5 tackles for loss.
Georgia’s special teams: What didn’t go wrong for the Bulldogs on special teams in their 33-28 escape against Vanderbilt? Drew Butler’s punt at the end of the game was blocked, giving the Commodores a chance to win it. Georgia also gave up a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a fake punt that led to another Vanderbilt touchdown. All the gaffes overshadowed Orson Charles’ blocked punt for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks: He’s quickly becoming one of the SEC’s most productive cornerbacks. Banks is tied for the league lead with five interceptions and leads the league with 13 passes defended. Only a junior, he now has 12 career picks, just four off Walt Harris’ school record of 16.
James Franklin and Todd Grantham playing nice: Something says these two guys won’t be trading Christmas cards. Franklin wasn’t real thrilled about some of the things allegedly being said by some of the Georgia defenders during the game, and Grantham wasn’t real thrilled about some of the things Franklin was allegedly saying to Georgia safety Shawn Williams after the game. One thing’s for sure. Neither coach was backing down.
Eastern Division: A year ago, four of the six teams in the Eastern Division wound up with losing overall records – Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. It’s not farfetched to think that we could have a repeat this season, and at the very least, have four teams finish no better than .500 overall. Kentucky is almost certainly headed for a losing season. Tennessee and Vanderbilt are both on track to be in the .500 range, and Florida is also looking down the barrel of a second straight season with at least five losses. South Carolina suffered a huge blow last week with Marcus Lattimore going down for the season, and Georgia has seemingly righted the ship after starting the season 0-2. Still, it’s hard to imagine anybody in the East having much of a chance against whichever team wins the West. Auburn beat South Carolina by 39 points last season in the SEC championship game. A lot can still happen, but would anybody be surprised if we had a second straight blowout in Atlanta that first weekend of December?